There are three stages of labour and the first stage is usually the longest. If you and your partner are well informed about what to expect, then you will be better placed to cope with any difficulties.
During this stage, the regular uterine contractions have started; the cervix softens; shortens and dilates (open) from closed to open (0-10cm). The first stage can be divided into an active and latent phase of which the latter is the longest. During the active phase, the cervix opens more rapidly and the baby moves deeper into the pelvis.
The first stage can last for many hours or it may be relatively short: timing varies from one woman to another, and between one pregnancy to another. The average length of established labour is 8-12 hours for a first baby; most of this time is usually the first stage.
“Hello World: A Baby’s Journey”
Covers all you need to know about the stages of Labour